Relationships Can’t Live On Autopilot
People change, desires shift, and new needs don’t allow for complacency.
As my partner and I watched the sun slowly dip beneath the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, I thought back on the journey that got us where we are. We were supposed to be backpacking across the world for a year, me working freelance and her enjoying a year off before grad school. But the world is different than it was when we first dreamed this dream. We’re different, too.
That’s the thing most people don’t realize. The world we know is constantly evolving, constantly moving forward, constantly creating new versions of itself. And in the same way, the people we love are doing the same. Relationships are living, breathing things, susceptible to change.
What brings us happiness in life, in our relationships, in our work, in our play, changes. It grows and ebbs and flows, as any natural thing does. And if we aren’t able to recognize, accept, and work through these changes, we get lost.
When partners don’t talk about their new needs, new wants, their changing ideals, relationships run the potential of self-destruction. Likewise, assuming things will always be the same poses similar risks.
We’ve been spoon-fed an idea of what long-lasting love looks like. Like hungry fools, we ate up the idea we could learn everything about a person, regurgitate parts of that knowledge as needed, and live happily ever after. A dozen roses on Valentine's Day, their favorite dinner for their birthday, and any other cookie-cutter act of love you can think of.
But what about the years when they don’t like roses anymore, lilies are the new favorite? What about when new dietary needs make the traditional birthday dinner impossible? Do you just do the same thing you’ve always done anyway? Insanity has been described in a similar context.
We can’t expect the people we love to stagnantly go through life, elated by the same, monotonous displays of affection. If we aren’t growing, we’re dying; and so are our relationships. Change is inevitable and necessary.
For my partner and I, we came to realize the biggest threat to our foundation was born in the ideals we developed and the roles we assigned one another. Relationships have a way of naturally assigning these roles. One partner is the driver, the other the navigator. There’s the cooker and the cleaner, the planner and the go-with-the-flower.
These roles, and the ideals that come with them, are not set in stone. And they never should be. Drivers must be allowed to navigate sometimes.
Everything is flexible, including the way we interact. Arguments had in the past, words said in anger, and previous reactions have no life in a perpetually evolving relationship. Assumptions of what was meant can’t survive, because both parts understand today is a new day with new possibilities.
So, we sat and enjoyed the beauty of this new world we’ve come to accept. We talked about our new dreams and goals, we laughed at our old selves, and we made a pact to cut ties with our old habits. The sun had set on the world that was today, and we looked forward to the new world and our new selves of tomorrow with a deeper connection to one another.